The brother of a San Diego attorney who was slain in October’s massacre in Las Vegas implored California’s teacher pension fund on Wednesday to divest from retailers that sell certain weapons and ammunition.
Jason Irvine of Reno addressed the California State Teachers’ Retirement System to back a proposal by state Treasurer John Chiang that would force the fund to end its stake in sporting goods companies and wholesale weapons dealers that sell guns that are illegal in California in other states. Irvine’s sister, Jennifer Topaz Irvine, was among the 58 people who were killed by Stephen Paddock on Oct. 1.
“I visited my sister Jennifer Irvine in the morgue,” Jason Irvine told the CalSTRS board of administration. “I kissed her on the forehead and cried that I was sorry and I loved and missed her very much. I saw with my own eyes and felt first-hand the carnage these weapons inflict.”
Chiang, a candidate for governor in 2018, first put forward a divestment proposal in the week after the Las Vegas shooting. CalSTRS board member Harry Keiley said the fund is researching Chiang’s request and looking into which investments might be affected by a divestment from weapons retailers.
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CalSTRS, a $215 billion pension fund, in 2013 voted to divest from weapons manufacturers Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger and Remington Outdoor. That divestment was a response to the December 2012 killing of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn..
Keiley paid respects to the three teachers in remarks at the board meeting, but questioned whether divestment would reduce gun violence. “Divestment cannot solve this social problem. The U.S. government needs to develop a comprehensive solution,” he said.
CalPERS and CalSTRS this year have faced calls to divest from companies that do business with the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline in South Dakota, companies that may work on the Trump administration’s proposed border wall, and companies based in Turkey. This week, U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu also nudged CalPERS to divest from a fund that has a stake in a Trump hotel.
The professional staff for both pension funds generally oppose divesting from industries because doing so restricts their opportunities and may increase risk. CalPERS has missed about $8 billion in potential revenue because of divestment policies dating back to the 1980s, according to a February report by Wilshire Associates.
Chiang plans to also make the weapons seller divestment request to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. He’s a member of both pension boards. He wants to ban the funds from investing in companies that sell weapons that are illegal in California.
“Neither taxpayer funds nor the pension contributions of any of the teachers we represent, including the three California teachers slain in Las Vegas, should be invested in the purveyors of military-style assault weapons,” he said.